Dir/scr: Pang Ho Cheung. Hong Kong-China. 2104. 98mins
Hong Kong director Pang Ho-cheung delivers another delightfully observed slice of local family life in Aberdeen as he focuses on the loves, laughs and longings of three generations of an extended middle-class family. It may lack the warm-hearted laughs of his hits Love In A Puff and Love In The Buff, or the gross-out humour of his most recent film Vulgaria, but Aberdeen shows him to be a confident director able to craft an astutely assembled if structurally complex film.
The turmoils of ordinary life are explored to good effect as the characters struggle to find love and happiness and have to face up to forgiveness and reconciliation.
Set to open in Hong Kong and China in May (often his films have opened HKIFF and gone straight into distribution) Aberdeen has the class and intelligence to be another local hit for writer/director Pang, and deserves to feature in further festivals and should also sell to niche distributors.
The film dwells on the Cheng family, with the title refering to a district on the southern side of Hong Kong island. First introduced are middle-aged Wai-ching (Miriam Yeung), who works as a museum tour guide and her husband Yau Kin-cheung (Eric Tsang), a doctor who happens to be having affair with a young nurse.
Their extended family includes Wai-ching’s brother Wai-tao (Louis Koo), his actress/model wife Ceci (Gigi Leung) and their young daughter Chloe (Lee Man-kwai), and Wai-ching and Wai-tao’s widower father Dong (Ng Man-tat) – once a fisherman and now a Taoist priest – who is in a relationship with nightclub hostess Ta (Carrie Ng).
The turmoils of ordinary life are explored to good effect as the characters struggle to find love and happiness and have to face up to forgiveness and reconciliation as they try and move on. Sadness and humour collide in familiar vignettes of family life, and though it can give the appearance of a soap opera at times, there is some real depth to Aberdeen.
From Wai-tao’s plans to check the DNA of his daughter (he worries she isn’t beautiful enough for him to be the father) and his debate about Star Wars with an old school friend (Chapman To) through to Kin-cheung’s eventual realisation about what a mistake he would be making if he left his wife, the film tackles emotional issues with real skill and resists the temptation to slip into melodramatic territory.
There are some delightful fantasy sequences (as well as some nice Godzilla gags), but they never detract from the core issues and emotions that drive the story. Quite simply the film dwells on the fact that there are always problems in life and lets its characters go along an often clumsy and fraught journey to find the answers they desperately need.
Production companies: Making Film Productions, CKF Pictures, Sun Entertainment, Huayi Brothers
International sales: Bravos Pictures, email@example.com
Producers: Kuo-fo Chen, Subi Liang, Ho-Cheung Pang, Zhonlei Wang
Executive producers: Alvin Chow, Alex Tong, Zhongjun Wang
Cinematography: Jason Kwan
Editor: Wenders Li
Production designer: Lim Chung Man
Music: Peter Kam
Main cast: Miriam Yeung, Louis Koo, Gigi Leung, Eric Tsang, Chapman To, Shawn Yue, Dada Chan, Carrie Ng, Miriam Yeung Chin Wah